Friday, October 30, 2015

Murder on the Orient Express (1974).....Trains

One of the unputdownable films I have seen. One of it's attractions is the cinematography of a thirties steam locomotive in all it's moods as it wends across Europe. It brings to mind other train sequences in films. A train is an image of power, irreversible change, romance and tragedy. A favorite has been Dr Zhivago's train shooting through the snows of Siberia in the 1900s. There is The Bridge on the Kwai, as the armoured train unloads its baggage of prisoners. Casablanca has a scene of parting on a rainy station during WW2, as romantic, doomed and rending as they come. One can't forget the suicide scene in the 1935 Garbo version of Karenina, as the train silently dissapears into the beyond after the last flicker of Anna's life. Schindler's List has some magnificent sequences. On Vincent Canby suggestion I'm looking forward to The Lady Vanishes. Trains stand for doom, rebirth, change. A steaming engine scores in visual beauty with its billows of smoke and steam and shovelled coal. Journeys used to take a long time and places too had a romance which is gone with abbreviated travel. A steam engine is a living breathing animal.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Battle of Algiers 1966

This is about the liberation of Algeria from French colonial rule of 130 years. Independence finally happened in 1962. The film is made in documentary style and gives a vivid, realistic, blood soaked panoramic view of this social movement of the late fifties. The conflict is minutely etched by placing a couple of well fleshed characters under the lens. We see the rising tidal wave of a poorly armed population against the relative might of the French. It is considered a classic on urban guerrilla war. The movement starts out in a small way, a hand full of determined individuals, gathering momentum as a large populace is embraced in its unstoppable flow. The urban landscape is eloquently captured, the marketplaces, the crowds, calm or surging. A very authentic film about history in the process of making.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Piku 2015

This movie is a first of a kind, Bollywood wise,at least for me, a bit out of touch with its current incarnations.. It is not a comedy, since its humor erupts naturally out of situations and is free of inanities. It puts under the microscope the life and problems of daily life which we all face like domestic help and gastritis.The script scintillates with a heady mixture of languages. It sparkles with wit and creativity. The movie script is built around a trip from Delhi to Kolkatta on an SUV, in which the panorama of landscape attractively unrolls. A sensitive portrayal of the upper middle class. Amitabh has another chance to express his theatrical genius while Deepika Padukone gives a masterly performance. This is the maturing of Bollywood and great things will come.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Midnight's Children 2012

This is possibly the best of Deepa Mehta's movies. Rushdie's novel is an inspired flight in which he expresses his own enrapturement with with the country of his birth, through this magical portrayal of the post independence period up to the time of writing. Deepa Mehta does justice to the poetic novel, a kind of Indian Kipling. Rushdie is a man of fusion of cultures with overflowing zest for life, and a sentimentality which is only possible for those at a nostalgic remove.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Pixote: the Survival of the Weakest 1981

What is life through the eyes of one abandoned parent-less in the slum quarters dominated by violence  and crime? This Brazilian film is about the boy Pixote, his consignment to the concentration like reformation centre, escape therefrom, and subsequent descent into the world of drugs and pimping. In the final scene,he prances along a railway track, hopeful in the present as he faces futurelessness. In real life, we read, Pixote was killed at the age of 19. The film strikes an objective rather than a sorrowful one--life has its highs and lows, even in what we call the dregs.